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12/12/2001 – Ernie Barnes, left, former NFL player now an accomplished artist, shows a painting comm

Source: George Wilhelm / Getty

A new exhibit featuring rarely-seen artwork from the symbolic Black artist Ernie Barnes is set to open in Los Angeles, California next year.

As the Los Angeles edition of the Frieze art festival is set to take place in February, one gallery has announced an exhibit featuring the iconic work of Barnes that focuses on his viewpoint of music. The exhibit, titled Ernie Barnes: Where Music and Soul Live, will be hosted by UTA Artist Space and contain 30 of his vibrant paintings that showcase Black musicians and dancers in nightclubs and other street scenes. 

This exhibit will mark the first time many of these paintings, which have been in private collections, will be seen by the public. Barnes’ work, which highlights Black bodies swaying and curving with a stirring magnetism in various scenes of work and play, gained mainstream appeal after appearing on the sitcom Good Times. “He was an artist of the people,” UTA Artist Space director Zuzanna Ciolek said in a statement. “The general public was aware of his work and excited about his work before the art world was, and I think that’s something that’s really exciting for us.”

The exhibit will also feature a specially designed interior from the creative agency PLAYLAB. Various DJs will periodically play live music throughout the galleries which will evoke the same aesthetic often seen in Barnes’ paintings. This includes “The Sugar Shack”, the iconic 1976 painting featured on Good Times which was also featured as the cover of Marvin Gaye’s hit album I Want You. That painting made headlines again as it was purchased for $13.5 million at an art sale by Christie’s by film producer Bill Perkins.

Barnes, a former lineman with the NFL’s Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers among other teams, pursued his love of art after retiring in 1964. “I paint when ideas come and I see a vision of what I want from our common humanity,” he said in an interview with the Oakland Tribune in 2002, seven years before he passed away. “This whole show is about what he saw, musically, because he painted from his own experiences,” said Luz Rodriguez, the manager of the artist’s estate.

Ernie Barnes: Where Music and Soul Live will run from February 15th, 2023 to April 1st, 2023.